Upon arriving in 2014, Mayor de Blasio and First Lady Chirlane McCray asked the Conservancy to find ways to augment the civic and cultural narrative of Gracie Mansion in ways that respect the exacting, underlying preservation efforts undertaken here since 1981 yet that reflect a fuller rand more accurate representation of New York history in the course of the 220 years Gracie has stood so far.
To that end it has worked with independent curators to create special installations. The first in 2015 was called Windows on the City: Looking Out at Gracie’s New York, which used works of art and objects of the late 18th century to reveal the lives of such populations as Jews, Irish immigrants, Chinese traders, a declining share of First Nationals, and African American slaves and Freedmen, as well as the Anglo-Dutch elite milieu of the Gracie’s themselves. The second exhibit placed in 2017 was New York 1942, again deploying artworks as civic signposts in this case in and around the fearful, wartime year, when Fiorello La Guardia arrived as the first inhabitant Mayor.
This year the Conservancy has engaged art historian, Jessica Bell Brown, to create a third installation to enrich the historic interiors, in this instance in curatorial ways tethered to the centennial of American women’s suffrage as it unfolded in New York and the nation. She Persists: A Century of Women Artists in New York, 1919-2019 puts on display the works of 44 women for whom New York has been a central creative force both past and present in the course of this according century.